A view of the city
This image of Benin City is by a European artist. It gives us an idea of how the city might have looked over 300 years ago. You can see the palace in the background – each turret has a bird statue on top. At the front of the picture, there is a royal parade with music and dancing.
It's behind you!
This photograph was taken at the palace, during the expedition made by the British in 1897. In the background you can see the palace roof with a snake made of brass slithering down it. Photos like this one are the best guide we have to knowing what Benin looked like.
This head was part of a brass snake on the palace roof – it was fixed to the roof with its body zigzagging down and its head at the bottom. Fifteen of these snake heads survive. We are not sure if the snakes were meant to be protective pythons or threatening puff adders.
We can tell that this plaque shows the palace of Benin from the snake slithering down the roof, just like the one in the expedition photo. We’re not sure if the stairs in the middle are meant to be part of an altar or a gateway – what do you think?
A very runny nose!
This looks like an ornament or toy but it’s actually a water jug. When the jug is filled, the leopard’s tail is used as a handle to tip it, and water comes out of its nostrils! These days a jug like this is used for water to wash the oba’s hands before he makes important offerings.
Would you sit on a fish?
The design on this stool is of two squirmy mudfish. The eyes are made of iron and there are lots of patterns on the surface. Can you spot the long whiskers on the mudfish? Many stools from Benin were carved from wood, but this one is made of cast brass.
The people of Benin used many musical instruments. This one, in the shape of an Oro bird, is called an idiophone or clapper. It was used during parades to celebrate the Benin kingdom’s victories in battle. To play it, a brass rod is used to hit the bird’s beak.
Container of power
This container was used in the ceremony of Ugie Erha Oba, which was held for the oba to honour his ancestors. It was filled with magical medicines to keep the oba in power. It is covered with human heads, leaves and bells – you can see the snake from the roof here too.